Jean-Pierre Sertin sometimes reminds me of Luigi Narsceni, or is it vice versa? Both of them, in any case, have a longstanding habit of leaving projects unfinished. With Narsceni it has become a project in itself (he recently vowed to ‘never finish a…’); with Sertin, however, I suspect that it is an unwanted attribute, brought on by a surfeit of ideas and a lack of time in which to complete them. Either that or he has a touch of the Toussaints (or ‘Caging Swallow Syndrome’, as I like to call).
Last night at The Crippled Bee Sertin unveiled his latest, doomed, idea.
‘I’m writing a new novel,’ he announced.
‘What about the old one?’
Sertin ignored this. ‘It’s based on a Sunday supplement’
We all nod, sip, nod, sip and nod once more.
‘You know those Sunday supplements? The Sunday magazine and all that?’, asks the indefatigable writer.
We all nod, sip, and scratch our noses with our forefingers. It’s a rhetorical question, after all.
‘How crazy are they?’ Sertin chuckles. ‘I mean, honestly – what is going on there? Or, more appropriately, what isn’t going on there? Those magazines lurch from one subject to the other like drunks. One minute we’re reading about war in the Congo, the next minute liposuction in Florida. Then we get an interview with a prizewinning architect, an advertisement for olives and advice on how to end a relationship with a man who collects stamps. All the world is there! And yet each magazine is almost instantly forgettable. The glossiness slides by us like a beautiful stream. A stream of terrifying nonsense: funny, sad, tragic, entertaining, you name it. They’re a law unto themselves, those magazines. Which is why…’
This time Sertin takes a sip, scratches his nose, and takes another sip.
‘Which is why,’ he continues, ‘that I propose to write a novel based on them; a novel that takes as its subject anything that appears within the pages of one, just one, Sunday magazine.’
We all nod. It sounds like a good idea. But a good idea is never anything more than just that. We all have good ideas – some of us have great ones. But how many of us ever get around to putting them into practice?
‘Good luck with the new novel,’ I say to Sertin as we leave the public house, a hundred or so sips later.
‘New novel?’ he says, lurching slightly.